Libby Matthews, Clinical Nutritionist and one half of the blog Julia & Libby explains why what we put on our skin is just as important as the food we eat.
You would have heard that eating foods that are covered in chemicals are harmful to your health, but many people aren’t aware that a lot of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our blood stream. While there are some chemicals that are too large to enter our blood stream some are small enough to penetrate through the skin, examples of these are nicotene and birth control patches. It takes 26 seconds for chemicals to enter our blood stream from products we are placing on our skin. From the moment we wake up we are using harmful chemicals such as toothpaste, hand soap, make-up, moisturiser, shaving cream, perfume and deodorant. It is scary to think about how many harsh chemicals we are applying to our skin every day.
Our skin is our largest organ and it is important to keep it healthy. Adults skin on average weighs 2.2 kgs and is around 2 metres squared. Skin acts as a barrier to chemicals and harsh sun rays, it prevents harmful bacteria from entering our body and keeps us warm and cools us off when we’re hot.
Many people take supplements and follow a strict diet choosing organic food and drinking clean water to stay healthy but they will use chemicals on their skin that is going to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Once these chemicals enter the bloodstream they disrupt normal hormonal function and have toxic effects throughout the body. Some experts believe that the chemicals that are absorbed through the skin are a lot more dangerous then the chemicals taken in by the mouth.
When we eat food that contains toxins our body flushes them out of our system via the liver and kidneys where enzymes can break them down. Chemicals that are absorbed through the skin enter our blood stream and bypass the liver which means they aren’t broken down and flushed out fast enough. They can build up in our body and can be stored in our body fat and brain.
David Suzuki has written a full report of the 12 most toxic chemicals that are in many skin care products that need to be avoided. These 12 chemicals also known as the ‘dirty dozen’ are estrogen mimickers. This means that once they have entered the blood stream after being applied to the skin they appear as estrogen in the body. Estrogen is a good thing in our bodies but when we have an excess of it that is when it can cause many health issues. Too much estrogen can cause early onset of puberty in both boys and girls, reproductive and infertility issues, anxiety, depression and weight gain.
We need to be aware of the different levels of exposure we are getting from certain products. If we are using a face cleanser every day that is left on for a short amount of time you will be getting less exposure to chemicals than if you are covering your body in a moisturiser every day and letting it absorb into your skin. If you are using certain skin care products regularly make sure these contain no harmful chemicals.
We also need to be aware of household cleaning products such as washing detergents, many contain chemicals that become trapped in our clothing and bedding. These chemicals rub onto our skin from our clothing and bed sheets.
Ingredients to avoid when choosing a natural skin care:
Any word that ends in ‘paraben’
The EWG skin deep database has information on over 62,000 different skin care products and ingredients, if you are unsure about any of your skin care products then have a browse of their website.
Some of my favourite skin care products I use are the White Gold Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil available from The Coconut Oil Shop and also the Phyts Certified Organic Beauty Range. The Phyts beauty range is originally from France, all their products are certified organic and are made using plants that are grown in complete sustainable agriculture.
Just like we feed our body with nourishing food we also need to feed our skin with substances that will heal and protect our bodies largest organ.